As if the Mets hadn’t already worn enough egg on their face for having dealt Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Victor Zambrano at the July 2004 deadline, their former lefty took them behind the shed tonight as a member of the Indians. Kazmir struck out 12 Mets hitters over six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and walking none on 97 pitches.
Kazmir’s career barely had a pulse after the 2010 season. He had compiled a 5.94 ERA in 150 innings with the Angels. He fell so far off the map that he spent the 2012 season with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League.
The Indians took a flier on Kazmir, still just 29 years old, signing him to a one-year, $1 million deal in December. With tonight’s effort, he lowered his ERA to 4.17 and he is averaging nearly a strikeout per inning pitched.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler struggled, walking five in five frames and allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. Indians reliever Cody Allen surrendered a solo home run to shortstop Justin Turner in the seventh, but that was the extent of the Mets’ offense. After Joe Smith tossed a scoreless top of the eighth, the Indians tacked on some more offense in the bottom half as Nick Swisher hit a grand slam to left field off of Mets lefty reliever TIm Byrdak, putting his team up 8-1. Matt Albers sealed the deal with a clean ninth inning, recording two strikeouts.
The Tigers trounced James Shields and the Royals tonight, so the Indians remain 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. They temporarily improve to 2.5 games behind the Rays — in progress against the Mariners — for the second Wild Card.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.
Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.
Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.
It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”